With a multitude of Internet service providers (ISPs) and a world of bundles, packages and contracts out there, how can you tell what kinds of speeds and specs you need? Once you’re all signed up, how can you tell you’re actually getting what you pay for?
This is a common question and our experts here at Spirit have developed a collection of articles to help us understand how Internet speed works and what to look out for.
Picture this: you’re watching Netflix on a Friday evening, streaming the new season of your favourite show. For the first few minutes you’re struggling to see a clear picture. Your settings are on HD and it’s starting to get frustrating…while you’re waiting, the picture has frozen and it’s ‘buffering’.
The culprit: your Internet speed.
That’s just one example of what can be impacted by poor performing Internet. Other common activities that can be painful with a slow Internet connection include streaming music, gaming online, sending or receiving attachments or file transfers and using the cloud.
There are four main factors that affect your Internet speed:
- How information is carried: Fibre optic cable and wireless signals are great for fast Internet but if you’re using old-school copper (traditional phone line), your speed could suffer.
- Traffic: Who else is using the same ‘bit of Internet’ as you, in the same house, down the road or in another suburb. Read on to find out more about what bandwidth is and how it can impact your speeds.
- Distance: How far you are from the end-point (computer) that is sending you information, or receiving it from you.
- System: What type of service you are talking to.
What is bandwidth and how is it impacting your speeds?
When you look at the advertising message from an ISP, you’ll see speeds advertised as Megabits per second (or Mbps). This is how we measure bandwidth.
Think of bandwidth like a freeway. The more lanes available, the faster cars can travel to their end-point and the more who can get there on time. But, if it’s peak hour and there are too many cars on the road, traffic will slow down. Your Internet can do the same thing and slow down when everyone’s trying to connect.
In general, fibre connections are ’bigger’ freeways than the other options, followed by high speed wireless, then copper. The Spirit network is designed to lower congestion, even during the busiest periods, meaning your speeds are more consistent.
What to look for when choosing an ISP:
The news has recently been reporting some major Internet companies who resell the services from the national broadband provider have promoted speeds they can’t deliver. So, when you’re shopping for an Internet provider, your first questions should be: What is the minimum speed I can expect to receive? It would be good to understand if they will reach this speed during peak periods.
Once installed, you can use free (independent) speed tests to verify what you’re getting. Sites such as www.speedtest.net will show you what upload and download performance you’re seeing.
So how much bandwidth do you need?
You’ll likely need the same length as a piece of string… meaning, it’s a bit of an unknown. Users, households and businesses all use the Internet differently. One way to tell is if you are currently experiencing any lag, interference or delays, then you don’t have enough. That said, the Internet speed you have today will likely be far less than what you’ll need next year, so consider getting a bit more than you need. Our Internet usage increases rapidly by the day – the more we can do online, the more bandwidth we use.
You should also consider who else is using the Internet at the same time as you. If you’re often online at night during peak time, then consider going with a low congestion ISP that doesn’t rely on the NBN.
Is there a quick-fix for my slow Internet?
If you’re not in a position to upgrade your Internet now, there are still some quick changes you can make to improve your speed. Try to minimise the number of devices used at a time as this can affect performance. So, if the kids are doing homework online while someone plays a game on their iPad and someone else is downloading a high-definition movie, you’ll need some serious bandwidth to handle that.
If you’re accessing the Internet via a Wi-Fi router inside your home, remember that however fast the Internet is that comes into your home, once inside it slows down to the speed of your router. So, for busy users (which is most of us), buying a high end router or mesh Wi-Fi system is usually money well spent.
Next: Find out what latency is, and how it affects speed. Stay tuned.
How do we do things differently?
Spirit delivers seriously fast Internet on our own network.